Using the STAR Method to Showcase Your Skills

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Using the STAR Method to Showcase Your Skills

Katie Drews

Katie Drews

Chief Experience Officer

LinkedIn

Avenica has helped thousands of college graduates find great entry-level positions to begin their career. One of the main keys to landing a position is taking the time to properly prepare for interviews. About half of each interview will consists of the interviewer gathering information as to why your qualifications make you the best choice possible for the available position. To answer questions like these, our experts recommend using the STAR Method.

To prepare for using the STAR Method in your interviews, practice the exercise below to familiarize yourself with the model.

  1. Make a list of all the transferable skills or attributes that make you unique (Ex. Strong Communicator, Assertive, Persuasive, Focused, Adaptable, etc.) This requires dedicating time for self-reflection, and StrengthsFinder (published by Gallup®) is an example of a great resource that can help with this process.
  2. Read the job description of the position for which you are interviewing. After reviewing, pick at least 7 of your strongest attributes that, based on your research, will be most appealing to the company/hiring manager.
  3. For reach attribute, provide three specific examples of situations in which you have clearly displayed these strengths. Keep in mind, these do not always need to be professional examples. Extracurricular activities, part-time, and non-professional work can provide valuable examples as well.

While coming up with these examples, each should:

  • Describe a Specific Situation
  • Identify the Task or objective needed to address the situation
  • Highlight the Action you took
  • Discuss the Result of your action (this should be a positive outcome)

*Using the acronym STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a great way to remember the process.

Keep in mind that each of these examples should be concise (able to complete in a minute or less) and clearly illustrate your attribute.

Let’s take a look at what a specific example might look like while applying to an account management position:

  1. Read the job description. Identify the transferable skills and attributes required for success in the account management position job description. Keep in mind that some of these skills won’t be “listed,” and will need to be implied based on the information you have.
  2. Of all the attributes listed in the job description, list your 7 strongest that you would like to highlight in the interview. For the account management position, my 7 strongest attributes might be goal-oriented, competitive, persuasive, assertive, outgoing, strong communicator, and active listener.
  3. Prepare stories for each of these attributes, and practice responding to sample questions. Example Interview Question: Tell me about a time you had to gain commitment from a group of people for a new or popular idea.

For this question, I want to highlight my ability to be persuasive and communicate effectively.

Situation: In college, I served on a volunteer committee for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

Task: Our committee was chosen to plan a concert fund-raiser that could produce at least $10,000 in revenue. We narrowed the musical options to two well-known bands. The committee was leaning toward the less expensive band.

Action: I was convinced that overall we would net more money by hiring the more expensive band because it had better name recognition with college students, so I put together a series of scenarios and presented them to the committee in a clear and detailed manner. My presentation showed that although it would cost more to hire a notionally recognized band, we would be able to sell more tickets at higher prices.

Result: When it came time to vote, it was unanimously decided to accept my recommendation. The even was held as scheduled and netted roughly $375,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, which was exponentially higher than the initial goal.

*As you can see, using the STAR method allows you to display even your extracurricular and non-professional work experiences in a very concise and powerful manner.

About Avenica

Avenica is an innovative education-to-work platform focused on bridging the skills gap to connect more people to better career opportunities. Through high-impact training and a comprehensive career discovery process, Avenica has helped thousands of people kickstart meaningful careers.

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How College Seniors Can Prepare for Life After Graduation

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How College Seniors Can Prepare for Life After Graduation

Katie Drews

Katie Drews

Chief Experience Officer

LinkedIn

Welcome Week has come and gone and you’re tired of playing “summer catch-up” with your classmates when it finally hits you – you’re already halfway through the first semester of your SENIOR YEAR of college! Time has absolutely flown by and although you shouldn’t have a panic attack, it’s important to recognize that this year is different from years past.

College seniors will no longer have summer break to look forward to, because that is now replaced with entering what we like to call the “Real World.” Making sure you are as well prepared as possible can save you a lot of time, a lot of stress, and will help you out financially as well.

It sounds scary, I know. But it’s nothing that a little preparation, tweak in your mindset, and taking advantage of on campus resources can’t fix.

Other than the obvious steps like applying to jobs and attending job fairs, here are a few other ways that college seniors can help ease the transition between college life and life in the real world:

Change Your Mindset and Focus on the Bigger Picture

Your senior year of college is unlike any other year in your educational career. There’s no more “next year” (unless you’re going to grad school) and the goal now shifts to finding a good job after college. Realize early on that looking for a job during your senior is a great opportunity, whereas searching for a job after you have graduated can quickly become a stressful nightmare.

The “Senior Slide” can become very contagious and infectious (I know from experience). But I will promise you one thing: That occasional “I don’t feel like doing this” feeling will never go away, no matter how much you end up loving your job. So change your mindset, power through those moments, and avoid this slide at any cost. This will only help you in the future because as much as you might like to think it will, life doesn’t get “easier” after college.

Make Sure You’re on Track to Graduate

I’ve heard so many stories of seniors who end up needing to take an additional summer class in order to graduate with their degree. Many companies require proof of transcripts or education checks and the last thing that you want is for them to pull an offer because you haven’t received your degree yet. Four years of classes, requirements, and credits is a lot to keep track of. Check in with your advisor as soon as you can, and if there is an additional class you overlooked be sure to sign up for it next semester. In some cases, the academic calendar doesn’t play nice and might not offer the specific course during the semester you need it. If this happens, talk with your advisor about possible alternative courses, online courses offered through a different branch of the university, or an approved independent study that can count toward your requirements – you’d be surprised by how willing they can be to help you.

Schools also require seniors to fill out an application for graduation. Pay attention to these deadlines, as any hiccups in the graduation process can cause some serious stress and setbacks.

Schedule an Appointment in Career Services ASAP

Roughly half of college students don’t take advantage of the Career Services office on their respective college campuses. If you haven’t done so yet, that’s okay, but it’s better late than never. Career Services has a lot to offer their students. Free resume advice, job search resources, interview tips, insider information on upcoming networking events, job fairs, etc. can do nothing but increase your chances of landing that first job out of college.

Also, many companies have ties to universities through ownership or executive leadership. Contacting their Alma Mater to look for candidates may be the first step these companies take when looking for new hires.

Develop a Skill

When you need an extra elective to graduate, that Yoga class offered on Tuesday and Thursday mornings looks like a relaxing way to add another “A” to your transcript. This class would be good for stress relief, and yes, most likely be an easy “A,” but it doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of helping you find a job. Instead, choose an elective that you can bring with you in your job search. For instance, taking intro courses related to coding, graphic design, Public Relations, etc. is something that can help you in your first job out of college.

The longer you are in the workforce, the more you will realize that having the ability to do things outside of your job description is going to help your career growth. Maybe your company is redoing their website and logo, or maybe they want to create a brochure for customers or write up press releases. Having at least some experience and training in these types of skills can allow you to take on exciting projects while catching the attention of upper management at the same time.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

It’s your senior year, you’re the big dog on campus, and you know the ins and outs of college life by having three years to get used to it. Next year you will basically be a freshman again, but this time, you’re in the beginning stages of your career and will be forced out of your comfort zone. Don’t forget to do this as often as possible during your senior year. Try new things, meet people who may challenge you, accept new responsibilities in on-campus organizations – get uncomfortable! These experiences will help you learn about yourself and will only help you once you’re thrown into the real world and expected to make life work in your own way.

ENJOY and Socialize!

Last but not least, remember that this is your senior year of college, so enjoy it! College is a once in a lifetime, unique opportunity in which you have the independence of an adult, but aren’t in full “adult mode” quite yet.  Join (or start) new clubs, go to campus events, meet new people, whatever it is that brings you joy, do that. Senior year comes and goes way too fast so enjoy it while you still have the chance!

About Avenica

Avenica is an innovative education-to-work platform focused on bridging the skills gap to connect more people to better career opportunities. Through high-impact training and a comprehensive career discovery process, Avenica has helped thousands of people kickstart meaningful careers.

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Networking Earned You a Referral, Now What?

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Networking Earned You a Referral, Now What?

Katie Drews

Katie Drews

Chief Experience Officer

LinkedIn

Networking, either through your personal contacts or by using social media tools like Linkedin, is an important part of any job search strategy. However, getting referred to a working professional who may be helpful in your job search is only the start. Here are some things to do to maximize the value of that referral.

Research the Referral – Use Linkedin, profiles that may be on their employer’s web site, published articles, etc. to learn more about the contact. Look for similarities between their backgrounds and yours (same college, same major, etc.).

Contact Information – To start, make sure you have received the referral’s contact information – especially business phone and email. A cell phone number is nice to have, but should be used with caution depending upon the advice of your referral source.

Initial Communication – The initial communication is crucial. It should be clear and concise. Include these elements:

  • Explain the Connection – Identify who referred you and how you know the referring party.
  • Describe Your Background – You have some leeway here, but college major, important skills, extra-curricular activities, and possible career interests are possible subjects. Keep it to 3-4 sentences at most.
  • State Your Purpose – Unless you know of a specific position that is open at the referral’s company, ask for an informational interview. State that your goal is to learn more about the referral’s education and career experiences, to communicate career options that you are considering and to get their feedback.
  • Close – End your email by thanking them and summarizing your contact information.

In most cases, your first outreach should be by email. A call to the referral’s business number is also acceptable, especially if you know the person. Either way, make sure your communication is professional and error free. Be sure to proof-read and spell-check emails. Similarly, with telephone communication, practice what you want to say and be sure to use a confident voice.

If after your initial outreach you do not hear back, be sure to follow-up. Keep in mind that you are contacting busy people – they may not put responding to your email or voice mail message at the top of their to-do list. Be prepared to follow-up two or three times. Given this, you may want to alternate email and phone follow-ups. If they see a call from you on their caller ID, they might just pick-up in order to get an item off their to-do list.

Finally, keep in mind that professional networking is among the best job search strategies and most professional people will be very willing to help. They remember when they started their careers and the help they received during their job search process. Once you get started and have success, you’ll find that it’s actually a skill you’ll be using throughout your career.

About Avenica

Avenica is an innovative education-to-work platform focused on bridging the skills gap to connect more people to better career opportunities. Through high-impact training and a comprehensive career discovery process, Avenica has helped thousands of people kickstart meaningful careers.

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